How to Have a Lawful Public March and Peaceful Protest
Providing the space for your community to speak to government and peacefully protest is vital and foundational to a free democracy.
You have to be a good leader. You need to be gracious. You need to be organized. You need to be firm. You need to take responsibility for what could happen on your march. In doing so you must educate yourself, fulfill the obligations in order to run a lawful public march, and be a strong leader by assuming your risk before you publicly announce your peaceful protest.
You may fear that you will be fired or lose your job. You may fear fines or other charges. A leader must be committed to all possible outcomes and know how they will deal with any retributions should they arise. Only a confident and educated organizer will enable their community to be encouraged and strong and garner support from their team. Assess your risk and act accordingly. Perhaps you can handle a march or perhaps you are better fit for some behind the scenes initiatives. Assess your level of risk and act accordingly.
Yes, you have the full legal right to do this. Peaceful Protests are protected under the Charter and for good reason: they are one of the last ways to speak to government and the larger population when the voices of the people are not being recognized. Everyone at your peaceful protest is protected under the Charter section 2 c) freedom of peaceful assembly. Speakers also claim Charter right under section 2 b) freedom of expression.
An organizer’s obligation is to provide the itinerary and safety plan (route, etc) to the police, prior to any public announcement. The police are obligated to provide public safety and traffic management. They are there to protect the public, including you. The police are not there to support you or be on your side. However, they actually do work for you – they are public servants. They will react to what happens at your march as per the plan that you communicated to them prior to your public announcement.
Make sure the police have your number and that you communicate with them. Police appreciate your communication as they need to staff these events properly. Giving them proper notice will help your peaceful protest be successful. If you have a rough idea of numbers attending your peaceful protest that will also help police. As much as you cannot know how many people will attend, perhaps telling police how widely your public announcement has been shared can assist them to understand the potential scope of the event. No permits or rentals are required. You may use public space for a peaceful protest. You may not use private property.
Always be courteous and firm.
You need a team. Running a local peaceful protest is a strong statement that matters in your community. You may be aware of larger successful marches and you would like to use their crew or equipment to run your march. However, by having your own team, your work will be more powerful and give a more forceful statement to government and the community. Your march can certainly benefit from external support, but you need to have local people on your team willing to put their own skin on the line. They live there with you and can speak to your local government more than if this becomes seen as primarily an outside group coming in. Invite people that will contribute and help. Ask some friends to be at the front, through the middle and the back of your group to keep people together.
Not only do you want to have a team that supports you in sharing ideas and support, but it’s very helpful to have another team dedicated to traffic and crowd management. The police do not really want you to have this per se as in my experience they have told me that they would like to be completely in charge. However, a good traffic team will work to keep your group together, help with safety, and most importantly, de-escalation. It is vital, before you march, to remind your people not to engage with counter protesters. You walk, smile, and remain peaceful by focusing on your goal. Your goal: a successful, encouraging, peaceful protest. In conducting a freedom march, you may likely come into contact with people that are violently opposed to what you are doing. They will not see your efforts for freedom to encompass even their liberties. Since fear is so rampant during this time, it is best to not engage, but to stay focused so that any problems will not detract from the overall message of your event.
It’s great to have a meet up time and then begin speeches 15 to 20 minutes later. People are always late so it’s good to accommodate for that and to also give time for people to chat and network when they first arrive. After speeches and the march, plan to meet back again from where you started because you will absolutely want to celebrate the success of the event with every one. You marched for your freedom! It is an incredible feeling and so empowering for everyone involved. Make sure you stay connected, exchange phone numbers, and get ready for the next march, or whatever other course of action you’re planning.
As an organizer, you will have a great deal of information to share with people, and the best thing you can do next is give people a call to action. There is absolutely something that everyone can do to help. Everyone is essential for freedom.
It is a great responsibility to run a peaceful protest, an absolute privilege, and truly a pleasure. Celebrate what you have done! Activism really does work and it matters a great deal.
A Package from Stand Up Canada:
Organizations like Vaccine Choice Canada and Stand Up Canada and Rebel News and of course the Constitutional Rights Centre can assist you legally if you need it. Also take time to contact other organizers for how they dealt with media, politicians, and police. The more you learn from other people’s experiences the better!